Inspiring examples of using creativity for social impact

 

  Inspiring examples of using creativity for social impact


Creativity is powerful. It has the power to inspire, create change, and connect us to our shared humanity. Today, artists' creativity is being harnessed as a force for social good in innovative and inspiring ways. This article looks at three examples of how creatives have used their talents to create sustainable positive change on a global scale throughout history: Suffragettes in Britain, Chilean artists under the Pinochet dictatorship, and community artist-led mural projects in New York City public housing. Through the examples of these three movements, the article touches on a range of topics including: the power of cultural work to inspire social justice, limitations and obstacles for artists engaging in activism, finding joy and purpose in creativity, and how supporting artists is one of the best ways to promote social change.

1. Suffragettes brought art into politics.

The contribution made by Britain's suffragettes (known as "suffragists" until 1920) to women's rights was almost entirely in their artistic work. Suffrage had been achieved in Britain at the end of a long struggle: it took another century for women to be allowed to vote. The suffragettes took matters into their own hands by campaigning for just causes through artistic and cultural pursuits. They included the visual arts in their campaigns, producing skits and plays in which they would dress up as suffragettes, or paint provocative scenes of prison sentences and executions in protest. They also worked to educate the wider public about the horrors of life under a male-dominated society, by forming and participating in art classes in working class communities to teach women how to draw or paint.

2. Chilean poets became political activists during times of dictatorship
Chile's dictatorship brought an end to democracy after a decade-long military coup d'├ętat on September 11, 1973 led by Augusto Pinochet. During this period, poets, playwrights, and artists took part in the struggle for freedom through their work. The government banned "canto popular" – political protest songs that were sung in public – and poetry readings were attacked by right-wing militants. Chilean poets became some of the most outspoken political critics of the government, with many facing torture and exile. The poet Raul Zurita is a recipient of numerous literary awards whose craft has been described as a "fusion of surrealism and real life." His work has covered themes such as exile, torture, national identity, sexuality, human rights abuses and the legacy of Pinochet's dictatorship on Chilean culture.

3. New York City artists worked to create lasting change in public housing.
New York City has a history of artistic activism. One of the most famous examples is that of the youth movement "Spoon River" in the late 1800s, which was part of a long-standing tradition of social activism through art and literature. The artists were involved in theatrical productions that critiqued society and social conditions. But art was not only used for entertainment: artists such as Arthur Twining Hadley also invented a primitive form of mime, which would later be used to communicate with deaf people while they were being educated or sheltered from the outside world.

Since the late 1990s, one of New York's most prominent examples of activism is the work and legacy of Collective DCA, former resident-artists at the Frederick Douglass Houses in Harlem. The collective created murals and multi-sensory environments that are both beautiful and powerful, encouraging community dialogue through art. Collective DCA achieved their goal of keeping people safe and entertained while making positive changes in the community through their many murals painted on building walls across New York City.

Conclusion: why artists should use their creativity for social good
The Suffragettes' use of artistic methods to push for change stands out as an inspiring example of how art can be harnessed to drive social justice campaigns forward. Their peaceful campaigning for votes for women involved poetry, drama and theatre, as well as other forms of cultural production. Today, in the post-modern era, we still see glimpses of the Suffragettes' legacy in the strong culture of political protest that continues to exist.

Poets such as Raul Zurita show us what happens when artists and poets use their artistic skills to express themselves at a time when it could cost them their lives. Art allows them to communicate and expose injustice through a powerful medium that is not only visually striking but also poetically appealing – something that is often lost in daily news reports.

The work of the artists behind Collective DCA is also a powerful reminder of how art and culture are powerful tools for community change. The murals that decorate the walls of many New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings have a strong relationship to the surrounding community. The murals are not only aesthetically pleasing; they contain narratives that reflect the reality and history of communities, which gives voice to the people living in public housing.

We can learn much from looking at these examples, including: how art can be used to promote social justice, the value of creativity as a form of social activism, and how art can contribute to creating lasting positive social change.

It is also important to remember that artists and creative people are typically independent, which makes it difficult for them to devote their time to working on social issues. In the section "What can we do to support art and culture activists?", we describe how supporting artists directly is one of the most effective ways of promoting lasting change.

1. Collectivism and community-driven projects enable artists' activism

The following sections explore various topics including: how artist collectives play a vital role in developing community-led projects that benefit local communities; the power of collective action to enable social change; strategies that create a common understanding among communities regarding their collective goals; and how cultural work by itself can inspire social justice and engage people in public life.

1.1 Arts collectives and community-driven projects

Arts collectives are often the driving force behind culture-led community work. These groups of artists and activists use collective resources – including skills, knowledge, time and money – to develop projects that benefit local communities in one form or another. Collective action is a powerful force for change, helping to unite different individuals with varying skills towards common goals. Artists play a key role in the process of developing projects that improve the lives of people in poorer communities, as they often have an intimate knowledge of local issues by working directly with the people concerned.

Conclusion: how art collectives work to develop community-led projects
Just as the Suffragettes used their artistic skills to engage and motivate people across society, artists today are engaged in a wide range of creative projects that help to create lasting positive change. Arts collectives are an essential part of these projects. If we want to see more social creativity and cultural activism, it is crucial that we recognise the importance of arts collectives and other forms of collective action in this area.

1.2 The power of collective action

The following sections explore various methods for driving social change by harnessing the power of collective action.

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